It's not stalking. It's research. It's you doing research on your competitors to help you stay up-to-date on what they're doing so you know which direction you should go. It's not stalking and everyone's doing it. Here's a list of 11 tools that can help you track your competitors movements on the Web and give you actionable information that you can use. It doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you a savvy site owner.\u00a0 We'll start off gentle. Google Alerts Google Alerts are great little inventions because they allow you track virtually anything and have it delivered either to your email or RSS. What kinds of stuff should you be tracking? The name of our competitor's company, their employee names, their CEO, product names, locations, mentions of new features, etc. What kinds of media are you looking for? Their blogs, social profiles, photos, videos, Flickr accounts, Facebook pages, etc. Why? The more you know, the better off you are to make smart decisions. Twitter Follow your competitors on Twitter. Follow their employees. Follow the people that engage most often with your competitors. Follow the people your competitors are following. Use Private Twitter Lists to do it all discretely. Private Lists are a goldmine for stalking. I mean, researching. Twitter Search Create RSS feeds or Save Twitter Searches to track important keywords, competitors' Twitter user names, and product names (yours and theirs).\u00a0 You can also use the Advanced Geo search to key in a certain radius from your competitor's storefront. Bit.ly If you're using Twitter, you're probably already familiar with bit.ly. It's one of the many URL shortening services out there. What's different about bit.ly is that it gives you really great link stat information. It will tell you how many people clicked on your link, how many times it was retweeted, how many people clicked on the retweeted link, what times of day people retweeted it, who was doing the actual retweeting, etc. It's a really great way to find and identify your network online so you can leverage them in the future. Yahoo Site Explorer Knowing that links are an essential part of getting your site to rank, Yahoo Site Explorer can show you WHO is linking to your competitors, as well as who's linking to you. Where are competitors getting their links from? How can you get links from similar sources? What holes do they have in their link profile that you can capitalize on? This tool will tell you. SEO for Firefox This is great FF plugin offered by SEOBook's Aaron Wall that gives site owners a robust look at whatever site they're looking at. It tells you a site's PageRank, age, number of links at a certain domain/page, how its done in social media, how many people are subscribed to its blog, if it's listed in DMOZ or the Yahoo Directory, etc. Because it offers such great information about links, many people like to use it evaluate competitor's content pieces. Quarkbase Once you put your URL in it will tell you the most recent and the most popular pages from a certain site that have been submitted. You can see where they've been submitted, how many votes they received, how many subscribers they have, etc. You can also search by "submitted on" or "submitted by" to see where your competitors are having their content submitted and who's doing the submitting. SocialMention This is a pretty neat tool. Enter in a search term (competitor's name, product name, keyword, etc) and SocialMention will track down what people are saying about that term across different blogs and social outlets. It will even attempt to track sentiment analysis to tell you if the mentions are positive, negative or neutral (this can get a bit wonky). It will tell you how many times a keyword was talked about, the time frame, and let you subscribe to an RSS feed for that term or export the information as a CSV. It's one of my personal favorite tools to play with. Compete Compete will give you a complete profile of any site on the Web. You give them the domain and give you an approximation of their unique visitors and the keywords that are bringing people to their site. You can also compare several different sites up against each other. There's a paid option which will give you even more analytical type information, as well. copernic.com Copernic offers a great tracker tool that will look for new content on your competitors' Web pages and then email you a highlighted version so you know what they changed. If they put up a page about a new product they'll soon be carrying, you'll know. If they start altering text to rank for different keywords, you'll know. If they update their employee page to create new positions, you'll know. It's a $49.95 investment but, I think it's worth it. Domaintools.com DomainTools will collect a bunch of information about a Web site and report back. You can find out if your competitors are listed in the Yahoo directory, get registration details, what other sites are on the same IP (may be sites that company also owns), etc. You can also set up Registration Alerts to inform you each time your competitor creates a new domain name or a Mark Alert to tell you if they've used a particular keyword. There you have it. A list of some of my favorite spy tools. You still trust me, right?